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According to the New York Post, researchers have just released a new nutritional index to guide the public on how to be healthier in 2021 while consuming environmentally stable diets.
The index ranked different foods by minutes lost or gained of healthy life per serving, with sugary drinks and processed meat being ranked at the top for most minutes lost. The index showed that more than 5,000 foods in America are now classified as a health burden and environmentally harmful.
“We use the results to inform marginal dietary substitutions, which are realistic and feasible,” authors wrote, according to New York Post. “We find that small, targeted, food-level substitutions can achieve compelling nutritional benefits and environmental impact reductions.”
The study showed that the foods collectively had a range of 74 minutes lost to 80 minutes gained per serving. Ready-to-eat cereals and cooked grains, non-starchy fruits, and mixed vegetables were at the top of the list of foods that gained the most healthy life.
Foods that ranked as the most minutes lost of healthy life were hot dogs, burgers, breakfast sandwiches, and sugary drinks. The hotdog is actually ranked in the top 20 most popular American foods and, according to the study, eating a hot dog on a bun resulted in 36 minutes of life lost, mainly due to it being processed meat.
Chicken wings translated to 3.3 minutes lost of life when consuming one 85-gram serving. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches actually increased healthy life by 33 minutes. Rice with beans, baked salmon, and salted peanuts also saw life gains between 10 and 15 minutes.
“Previous studies investigating healthy or sustainable diets have often reduced their findings to a discussion of plant-based versus animal-based foods, with the latter stigmatized as the least nutritious and sustainable,” the study reads. “Although we find that plant-based foods generally perform better, there are considerable variations within both plant-based and animal-based foods that should be acknowledged before such generalized inferences are warranted.”
The study said that organic foods like fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and some seafood were the most environmentally friendly.
Poultry, dairy, egg-based foods, and cooked grains were in the medium range, and foods like beef, processed meat, pork and lamb, cheese-based foods, and certain salmon dishes had the highest environmental impacts, along with poor nutritional value, due to the way it’s produced.
“In agreement with previous studies, this suggests that nutritionally beneficial foods might not always generate the lowest environmental impacts and vice versa,” study authors wrote.
The research concluded with suggesting that Americans should switch out 10% of daily caloric consumption from beef and processed meat for fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and certain seafood and that will reap incredible health benefits.
Doing so will lead to a 33% smaller dietary carbon footprint and 48 minutes of healthy life gain per day per person.
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